Poetry Everywhere
"Sundays too my father got up early..."

Robert Hayden

Those Winter Sundays

Robert Hayden (1913-1980) was born in Detroit, into a family already fractured at the time of his birth. He was raised, though never legally adopted, by neighbors Sue and William Hayden. His relationships with both his birth and foster parents were understandably complicated, rife with jealousies and "chronic angers." But it was ultimately to his foster father, William, that he paid quiet tribute in "Those Winter Sundays," which first appeared in Ballad of Remembrance (1962). The course of Hayden's work would be strongly influenced in the early 1940s both by W. H. Auden who "directed Hayden's attention to issues of poetic form, technique, and artistic discipline," and by his wife's (and subsequently his own) conversion to the Bahá'í Faith, which teaches "world unity and racial amity." In the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature (2004-01) Christopher Buck says "On the principle that race divides while a higher identity unifies, Hayden presented himself as an American poet rather than as a black poet. His greatness is that he was really both, and that his art was a fusion music of the American experience." Among his many honors, Hayden was Poet Laureate of Senegal in 1966; and in 1976 he was the first African American to be appointed Poet Laureate of the United States. This animation was created by Allison Alexander Westbrook IV. The poem is read here by Carl Hancock Rux.

To read this and other poems by Robert Hayden, as well as biographical information about the poet, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.